What would happen if the sun exploded tomorrow?

The star in the centre of our solar system, the super-hot plasma ball that provides us with heat and energy, and the amazing skin colour—well, it’s a time bomb.

The sun is about 10 billion years old. But it is expected to last only about 5 billion years. After that, the sun will expand and become a red giant star. Then it will shrink into a white dwarf, a dying star, which will continue to cool down for the next billions of years.

Of course, we will be away for a long time before all this happens. But can you imagine what it feels like to see the sun explode in front of your eyes?

With a name like "Supernova", you would think that the explosion of the sun would be the most spectacular firework show ever seen in the world. But in reality, you may not see anything!

The sun is 150 million kilometres (93 million miles) from the earth, and the light from the sun takes 8 minutes to reach us. Although this may seem very far away, from a supernova perspective, we have no chance.

In order to keep the Earth completely away from supernovae, we need to be at least 50 to 100 light-years away! But the good news is that if the sun explodes tomorrow, the resulting shock wave will not be strong enough to destroy the entire earth. Only the side facing the sun will instantly boil.

The lucky another half will experience a temperature rise 15 times higher than the current surface temperature of the sun, and permanent darkness. If we don’t have the mass of the sun to keep us in orbit, the earth will likely start to float in space, while the rest of the inhabitants struggle to survive.

Our planet may be locked in an orbit around another star, which may provide the same light and heat as our sun. But when that happened, we were all gone.

If we know the day when the sun explodes in advance, then we can buy ourselves as much as 1,000 years, provided that we have enough resources to sustain it for such a long time. A few meters below the ground you are walking on, the earth’s temperature remains at about 17°C (62°F).

So, if we have enough time to prepare, civilization can continue to survive by moving underground and entering a huge network of fortresses. Within a week after the explosion, the earth's surface temperature will drop to -18°C (0°F). Within a year, the temperature will plummet to around -73°C (-100°F). At this point, the ocean will begin to freeze from top to bottom.

Within 1,000 years, the Earth’s atmosphere will freeze and collapse, leaving anything left on the surface to be exposed to cosmic radiation and meteor impacts. But hopefully, by then, we have found a new home.

The good news is that if the sun explodes—it will eventually happen—it won’t happen overnight. When the sun really dies, it will be a long, slow, and arduous process that will last for billions of years.

The sun will get hotter and brighter, and it will start to expand. In this process, it will lose its outer layer to the universe, leading to the production of other stars and planets, just as the violent explosion of the Big Bang created the earth. Who knows? Maybe a new life can be formed. Can you imagine another earth? A new humanoid species?

It is difficult to predict what our Milky Way will look like in billions of years, and it is especially hard to imagine our solar system without the huge golden anchor that holds it together. But one day, in the very, very distant future, the sun will expand and then shrink, perhaps leaving room for a new star to replace it. If because of some miracle, humans still existed at that time, where might we live?

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